Leadership is comprised of an abundance of imperfection. We work in imperfect environments with imperfect choices. Our team members and colleagues are imperfect human beings. Our bosses and their bosses are imperfect leaders attempting to set agendas and direction that for sure are imperfect. We tackle our assignments and projects utilizing imperfect data and information. To all this imperfection, add our personal lives and relationships. And yes, those are definitely imperfect too.
So why do we work so diligently to achieve perfection? Really, why do we even have the word “perfect” in our vocabulary?
According to the dictionary, “perfect” is defined as:
- being entirely without fault or defect
- satisfying all requirements
- corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept
Looking at these definitions we begin to learn the truth about perfection. Does a workplace or project exist that is completely free of fault or defect? Is the information we gather so comprehensive that we are meeting all the requirements? Are there any human beings we see in our personal or professional lives that reflect an ideal standard?
Don’t wait for perfect and instead:
1. Delve Deeper Into Available Data
Leaders know that perfect data is a myth and we need to look at the information we are presented and work with that. One manager recently shared with me his frustration with missing pieces of a study he was hoping would prove his points. Sometimes we aren’t presented with everything we need so we may want to explore more studies, ask more questions and pull together a not so obvious conclusion.
2. Make Decisions Based On Less Facts
Knowing we may never have all the facts and numbers, we still need to make decisions. That means that we must lead from a gray area, rather than from a black and white perspective. Making decisions with ambiguity is the way of the global world today.
3. Be More Accepting Of Other’s Challenges
We all come to the table with strengths in different areas. How unbalanced our teams and collaborations would be if we all had the same talents and gifts. To support one another and truly lead we can:
- Help others find their gifts and specialties
- Stop berating the weaknesses of our team members
- Share with our colleagues how we overcame our challenges
- Play to everyone’s strengths
4. Avoid Making Assumptions
When we strive for perfection we tend to jump to conclusions before thinking through the entire situation. Do you know the number one way we can stop ourselves from making assumptions? By listening completely. Just today when I was coaching a young leader, I jumped in before letting her complete her thought. I was totally off and when I let her finish, she was going in a totally different direction. Just pause and listen.
5. Offer Strategy Building
Without shoving an idea or strategy down someone’s throat, encourage a partnering of ways to achieve an end result that doesn’t require perfection.
- Ask how they would go about completing the project
- Find out what has worked for them in the past
- Be present and focused when brainstorming and problem-solving
- Share a story of how a particular approach panned out for you
6. Make Mistakes
To begin the dissolution of perfection, leaders must embrace making mistakes. Since there are no perfect facts or solutions, making a mistake empowers us to be authentic leaders, vulnerable as much as anyone else we work with. When mistakes are made, admit them, evaluate why they happened and then decide on a better approach for next time.
7. Take More Risks
The best plan for teams that want to debunk the myth of perfection is taking action even if it is riskier. It is far better to take the risk and be wrong or imperfect than wait around for all the facts and figures. That delay might cause a lost opportunity. Try that new job opportunity. Tackle that project that no one wants. Ask the department that you have stayed clear of to join you in solving your challenge. If you don’t someone else will.
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